Huawei Mate 10 Review: The Affordable Flagship?

by John Nieves  November 27, 2017

We review the Mate 10!

Since most Android flagships have been priced past the 40K mark recently, it was only natural to expect Huawei’s new flagships, the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro to be priced accordingly. Imagine our surprise when we found out that prices for both phones not even coming close to 40K, with the Mate 10 priced at the lower end of the 30K price band (Php 32,990 for the Mate 10 and Php 38,990 for the Mate 10 Pro).

The Chinese company’s pricing for their new flagship makes the device super compelling for people who’ve given up hope in finding a decently priced, powerful flagship smartphone in the Philippines with all the bells and whistles that a new top-tier phone should have.

Huawei Mate 10 specs

2.4GHz Hi-Silicon Kirin 970 octa-core processor
4 GB of RAM
5.9-inch 2K RGBW HDR display; 16:9 screen ratio
64 GB/128 GB of expandable storage (up to 256 GB via microSD card)
Dual SIM
20-megapixel + 12-megapixel rear camera, Leica Summilux-H Lenses at f/1.6 aperture, OIS, 2x lossless zoom, PDAF, Laser AF, dual-LED flash
8-megapixel front camera
WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC
Fingerprint scanner, IP53
USB Type-C
4000mAh battery
Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8

Design: Looks great, though the two-tone isn’t obvious with the black version

It’s no surprise that both the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro share a similar design language, since they are both part of the same product line after all. Despite their mastery of metal, Huawei has decided to ditch the cold touch of aluminum for glossy, smudge-prone Gorilla Glass.

The design change is aligned with the trends of 2017, and Huawei has done a good job with the overall design and build of the Mate 10. Gorilla Glass sandwiches the aluminum frame of the Mate 10, and the device has a pleasant curve on the sides to make it easier to hold one-handed.

The rear of the device holds Huawei’s trademark dual camera setup with Leica branding, and just like the Mate 10 Pro has a two-tone finish to make it stand out. The black variant of the Mate 10 also has this two-tone finish, though it’s not really that obvious because of the coloration. If you really want that stripe to show (and trust us, you do) don’t get the black variant of the phone.

Speaking of the Leica-branded dual-cameras, the Mate 10 has the same snappers as its more expensive brother: a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor paired with a 12-megapixel color sensor with f/1.6 Leica Summilux-H lenses as well as OIS, 2x lossless zoom, PDAF, Laser AF and dual-LED flash.

The power and volume keys are on the right side of the device, with the 3.5mm jack on top and the USB Type-C connector plus speaker grille on the bottom. The phone uses a hybrid SIM tray, so you’ll either have two SIM cards in there or one SIM plus a microSD card.

Huawei put the fingerprint scanner of the Mate 10 in the physical home button in the front, but because of the incredibly narrow bezels (more on this later) the size of that fingerprint scanner is a little small. It doesn’t impede function at all since we found that the fingerprint scanner is still incredibly fast, though it feels a little more awkward to use. Huawei pretty much nailed the positioning of the fingerprint scanner on the Mate 10 Pro, so we’re a little weirded out with their decision to put it in the front for the Mate 10.

Unlike the Mate 10 Pro, the regular Mate 10 only has IP53 splash resistance, so it’s not really meant to go underwater. We reckon it’ll survive an accidental drop in the tub or god forbid, a dunk in the toilet (ew), but you’ll have to retrieve it quickly and dry it off so it doesn’t die on you. We would have liked full IP68 protection, but it’s better than nothing.

Display: Huawei finally embraces QHD!

One of our major gripes with the Mate 9 was that the phone had a big display but low pixel density because of its full HD display. Not the Mate 10: the 5.9-inch panel has QHD resolution with HDR capability, plus a screen-to-body ratio of 81.6% and a typical 16:9 aspect ratio. Compared to the Mate 10 Pro, the Mate 10 has a bigger screen when you consider actual surface area in a package that easily fits in the palm of your hand thanks to the almost non-existent bezels on the side and the reduced top and bottom bezels.

Of course the Mate 10 Pro has the edge when it comes to overall image quality thanks to its OLED panel, but really the LCD display on the regular Mate 10 looks fantastic. The phone’s display also has support for HDR content, which is fast becoming a standard in most flagships.

Performance: Kirin 970 kicks major ass

Inside the Mate 10 sits HiSilicon’s Kirin 970, the same processor that powers the Mate 10 Pro. Aside from being one of the fastest processors in the planet, Kirin 970 is the world’s first processor that has a dedicated neural processing unit, or NPU, at least according to Huawei. This allows for on-device machine learning that’s aimed at recognizing how you use the phone and its other features and optimizing it for you.

Huawei’s goals with the Kirin 970 is ambitious, to say the least, since there hasn’t been anything like it in the past. Our day to day use with the phone hasn’t revealed any clear benefits from the machine learning capabilities of the phone aside from the camera’s performance (which we’ll talk about later) though it might just be the case of us not having the device long enough to notice. Having a dedicated NPU makes machine learning tasks easier, like on-device translation or image recognition. Using the on-device translator powered by Microsoft was impressive, at least on paper, though we’ve yet to test it with an actual native speaker of the languages on offer (there’s no Tagalog option at this time).

What we did notice is that the phone is wickedly fast, and is able to handle most tasks without any problems at all. Even graphical performance hiccups, one of the Kirin processors’ previous pain points, is non-existent – the phone is able to run graphically intense Android games without breaking a sweat.

Wireless performance of the Mate 10 is fast, which is something we’d expect from a company that builds and operates wireless networks for the majority of the world. A pleasant surprise was the speaker on the Mate 10, as sound quality from the speakers are clear and defined, especially at higher volumes. There’s even a 3.5mm jack present, which isn’t available on the Mate 10 Pro.

Software: EMUI 8 Isn’t For Everyone

Just like their other phones, Huawei has outfitted the Mate 10 with EMUI 8 layered on top of Android Oreo. Yes, you’re not going crazy: Huawei did skip a few numbers in EMUI’s version number to match Google’s latest OS. While the default setting of EMUI replicates how iOS looks with your apps scattered all over the home screen, you can switch to the traditional app drawer one via the settings. You can also remove the on-screen Android navigation keys and just go with gestures on the home button instead, saving a few pixels on your display. You can even switch from QHD to full HD resolution, saving you even more power when you’re out and about.

Camera: Just as good as the Mate 10 Pro

While the Mate 10 Pro has better specs than the Mate 10, both phones sport the same Leica-branded dual camera. That’s a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor paired with a 12-megapixel color sensor with f/1.6 Leica Summilux-H lenses, which impressed us with its performance with the Mate 10 Pro.

It comes as no surprise then that the Mate 10 mimicked the performance of its more expensive brother when it came to photos. The phone has fantastic dynamic range, capable of taking really great photos even in challenging light.

Huawei’s AI smarts really shines in photography, as the camera and phone is smart enough to identify 13 different scenes and scenarios automatically, which in turn tweaks the settings of the shots accordingly for the best result.

Huawei’s also improved the portrait mode of the front-facing camera, giving you realistic bokeh shots compared to the P10 and P10 Plus. It’s safe to say that the Mate 10 is capable of capturing beautiful images with its dual rear camera no matter the lighting condition.

Battery: More than a day’s worth of useful battery life

Despite having a slim frame, Huawei’s current flagship has a 4000mAh battery inside of it, making it the only flagship this 2017 that has more than 3500mAh of juice. While our PCMark battery benchmark acted up quite a bit and didn’t make it in time for this review, we recorded around a day and a half worth of juice with the regular Mate 10 with moderate use. You can probably stretch that further if you decide to reduce the resolution of the phone’s display down to full HD or even HD. If you run out of juice, the Mate 10 has fast charging via Huawei’s Super Charging tech, though it requires the use of their proprietary cable. There’s also no wireless charging on the Mate 10, which is weird since the phone has a glass body.

Verdict: It’s the best value for money flagship today

With prices of top-tier flagships from rival companies ballooning past 40K, it’s refreshing to see Huawei’s newest and greatest priced below that. With an SRP of just Php 32,990, the Huawei Mate 10 is a great alternative to the offers of its competitors without compromising build quality, performance, image quality and battery life. 

While the Mate 10’s AI smarts wasn’t too apparent in our review, the rest of the package still merits consideration. We found very little to complain about the Mate 10, and should be on the top of your mind if you’re looking to upgrade to a flagship phone this holiday. 





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    To Sir John, when it comes to battery life performance? which of the two variants do u prefer? mate 10 or the pro version?

    Hi Sir John, Ive narrowed my choices this coming holidays. .Nokia 8, Huawei Mate 10 or Samsung Galaxy Note Fan Edition? Which smartphone will you choose? My budget only allows me for those flagships. Thanks!